The Terran Mandate – Free Web Edition

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Chapter 1

Forbidden Shoahn’Fal watched the man crawl in a circle and claw at the cold desert sands under the Shoahn’Tu night sky, blinded to everything but the terror ripping his mind apart. Shoahn’Fal felt his antennae rippling along the top of his head like two snakes writhing in the ecstasy that spewed out from his own… Continue reading Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Fallen He had lived a life of being nowhere. He needed little to survive – stealing some of it from the Terran Guard in small ways that they would never notice. A half-filled bottle of water here or a morsel of food there would find its way to their compost. He lived on discarded things… Continue reading Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Orders General Lane, Shoahn’Tu Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding, sat around a green plastic table with the command staff of his regiment – all that was left of the once vaunted Colonial Marines. All eyes were on Colonel Dekker as he scratched the green resin of the conference table top. “The Enforcer Battalion can carry the… Continue reading Chapter 3

Chapter 4

ATTACK Colonel Ben Dekker stood next to a bunker on the MEF compound perimeter and surveyed the Highlands with his field glasses. Just 500 meters in front of him, the fertile ground covered with patches of grass and weeds that were actually green sloped up towards a small rise, behind which a full brigade of… Continue reading Chapter 4

Chapter 5

JOMMY Emmet Ford felt his bones creak as he stood up. He was scanning the withering plants of his plot when the sound of battle rolled in like a wall of thunder – just far enough away that he knew they were still safe, but close enough that there was no way to tell for… Continue reading Chapter 5

Chapter 6

DEKKER’S CHARGE The hum of electric coils from magnetic rail guns filled the air. A Lance Corporal poked his head up and sighted a line of four Terran Guard soldiers kneeling in a tight line as they swept his fire team with a steady stream of steel slugs cracking the air just inches above their… Continue reading Chapter 6

Chapter 7

PRICE TO PAY Sentinels of his nightmares, the chambers stared back at him. Steel encasements choking the air inside them, with convex plastic windows so he could see the dead space trapped within, they whispered to him even as they sunk a dagger of futility into his heart. Stand there. Witness what the soul of… Continue reading Chapter 7

Chapter 8

CRIMSON SUNSHINE Shahn’dra padded her way quietly to the radio in the corner of the cabin. The thin tendrils normally draped over the top of her head quivered and then floated up over her eyes as she reached out with a leather brown hand to stroke the radio case. He had tried to explain it… Continue reading Chapter 8

Chapter 9

HINDSIGHT All eyes were on Dekker as he glanced around the room. “Before we get into all that,” he said, “I want to know how the Terran Guard managed to get their second brigade into line just in time for this battle. It is more than a day’s march from their compound, under the best… Continue reading Chapter 9

Chapter 10

OLD SCROLLS Shoahn’fal crested a low rise to find himself looking down at nothing more than a boxy structure jutting up from the ground. Moonlight glinted off its smooth surface, giving it a cold sterile sheen. At first glance, it resembled one of the prefab buildings the humans had brought with them, but this was… Continue reading Chapter 10

Chapter 11

DARK WINDS Shahn’dra crawled across the dirt floor towards the radio. Her vision was blurred and her head was spinning from the visions that flooded her mind’s eye. Instinctively, she unfurled her antennae to project a defensive aura to shut the visions out. But it was forbidden. She smoothed her antennae back down, but they… Continue reading Chapter 11

Chapter 12

WARNING The throttle was already jammed against its forward stop and the jump jet’s engines whined with the strain of running at full power. Major Sam Walker pushed the throttle grip in his left hand forward anyway, huffing when it wouldn’t move any further. Captain Holt, his Executive Officer, sat in the right hand seat… Continue reading Chapter 12

Chapter 13

PALADIN’S PREROGATIVE Major Walker stood in front of General Lane’s desk, still trying to think of the best way to tell his commanding officer that he was moving the entire company of Cataphracts. In a tired voice, Lane asked, “What is it Major?” “I need to move the Cats.” Lane raised his brow. “Really?  On… Continue reading Chapter 13

Chapter 14

EDGE OF EXTINCTION The lines etching his face were as desolate as the ground that he hacked at with a hoe. Carefully working the blade around the dried leaves of a plant that anybody else would have taken for dead, he dug out clumps of dry dirt and clay to expose its withering roots. He… Continue reading Chapter 14

Chapter 15

GUARDIANS Shoahn’Fal struggled up the last rise between him and the valley where the Pyramid stood. Its blue aura of light rose just above the top of the rise, promising him his prize. Driven on by the seething hatred growing inside him and his unslakable thirst for revenge, he dragged the case through the sand… Continue reading Chapter 15

Chapter 16

ALLIES General Godfrey stopped in front of the door to the interrogation bunker to smooth over the front of her utility dress blouse. She glanced at her boots, which reflected the Shoahn’tu sun in their black sheen. A beige beret sat perched on top of jet black hair cut to length just below her jaw… Continue reading Chapter 16

Chapter 17

THE TERRAN MANDATE General Lane sat at his desk – a cheap looking assembly of lightweight resin that was supposed to look like wood – and rearranged, again, the assortment of writing instruments and photographs of his troops in action. The truth was he didn’t have much to work with in terms of making a… Continue reading Chapter 17

Chapter 18

SACRIFICIAL LAMB Major Walker’s maintenance chief stood at the top of the ladder extending from the roof of his converted troop carrier which carried the special tools and materials used to maintain the Cats. He struggled to work a flat box with metal clamps into position where the knee joint of Walker’s Cat was still… Continue reading Chapter 18

Chapter 19

THE ENFORCER Colonel Dekker tucked his cover under his left arm and pounded on the wall with the palm of his hand three times. Through the closed door, he heard General Lane say, “Come.” Dekker took a breath and waited until he was sure his mind was settled before he swung the door open and… Continue reading Chapter 19

Chapter 20

SKY RIDER Emmet held Jommy’s hand as they watched the rest of the farmers tote bundles and crates into the clearing. They were into the deep of the night now and darkness shrouded everything as they worked by the light of electric lanterns. Hasam, the colony foreman, directed the families as they deposited their packages… Continue reading Chapter 20

Chapter 21

PYRAMID The twelve Cataphracts of Major Walker’s Combat Armor Team were crouched in three box formations stretched across the base of the Pyramid. Four large tents made from thin sheets of green resin formed the command post. Smaller tents, serving as a field barracks, flanked the command post on either side. Lights mounted on thin… Continue reading Chapter 21

Chapter 22

PUZZLE In a just universe, the honor of men like the Paladin would prevail. But Captain Holt knew better. He did not live in a just universe. As the rest of the camp slept, he walked towards one of the pilots pulling sentry duty along the perimeter. With a rifle slung over shoulder, the sentry… Continue reading Chapter 22

Chapter 23

DUTYBOUND The only clue Dekker and his Marines had was the scattered prints made by the Paladin’s Cat when it landed west of the compound. Any tracks that might have been made after that had already been swept away by the wind. That had been twenty nine hours before. Since then, Dekker’s nineteen troop carriers… Continue reading Chapter 23

Chapter 24

INTERROGATION The tower basement was musty, but the power arrays were still generating enough power for them to get the lights on and power up the single recovery chamber embedded in the concrete wall. Dekker, a detail of three Marines and the senior corpsman stood facing the contraption. The sound of footsteps coming down the… Continue reading Chapter 24

Chapter 25

HONOR Lt. Simmons turned and started walking up the stairs. “Where are you going?” Dekker asked. She looked back at the slack body of the pilot – his eyes glossed over in a haze of agony. “I’m not going to stand here and watch this,” she said. When Dekker looked at her, she could see… Continue reading Chapter 25

Chapter 26

HAND OF FATE It had been a full day since General Godfrey had practically handed the Paladin’s mercenary pilot to the MEF on a silver platter. She paced the grounds of the Terran Guard compound, waiting. She waited for word from Captain Holt to report that Dekker had made contact with the Paladin. She waited… Continue reading Chapter 26

Chapter 27

PRIESTESS Shoahn’Kra folded a tattered shawl and laid it on top of the rest of her belongings inside a cloth bag. She patted a swollen cloth bag infused with the pitch of a cord tree to make it water tight. Shahn’Dra sat in the middle of their hut with her knees pulled up to her… Continue reading Chapter 27

Chapter 28

PROPOSAL Shahn’Dra and Major Walker each sat on a folding camp stool in front of his command tent. He watched her as she weaved her hands through the air, reaching out for something that she could not yet see, but sensed at the edge of her awareness. Walker wiped the sweat from his brow and… Continue reading Chapter 28

Chapter 29

DESTINY Shahn’Dra crouched down behind the console deck of the jumpjet. Her antennae peeked up over the edge while she hunkered down, her eyes darting around the interior of the cockpit. Her heart thumped relentlessly as the craft surged through the sky. The craft bobbed and swayed from thermals – invisible pockets of warm air… Continue reading Chapter 29

Chapter 30

HEIST Lt. Simmons sat perched on top of her troop carrier with thick headphones hooked to a parabolic dish peeking out from behind the crest of the ridge where they were parked. She tapped the control unit and the dish twisted slightly to change its alignment. Through the headphones, she heard the scrape of their… Continue reading Chapter 30

Chapter 31

GETAWAY Shahn’Dra clutched the Old Scrolls close to her chest as she scurried through the rocks and scrub leading up to the crest. Above her, rounds from Second Squad cracked the sky as they laid down cover fire for her retreat while she bounded up across the land like a gazelle fleeing its hunter. “Cover… Continue reading Chapter 31

Chapter 32

RETRIBUTION “Well isn’t this just fucked full of all kinds of up,” General Godfrey said. She stood with her hands on her hips as medics hoisted Brandt’s body onto a stretcher. She turned around when she heard the rattle of somebody rummaging through the troop carrier behind her. She poked her head through the hole… Continue reading Chapter 32

Chapter 33

RUNNER Jommy huddled under the plastic table as the ground shook again. The plastic box he called home rocked and the aluminum pot, along with a tray of utensils, slid off their shelves and clattered on the floor. He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the sound of another explosion to catch up to the… Continue reading Chapter 33

Chapter 34

CALL The words echoed off the walls in the chamber room. “Skydriver, Skydriver, this is Farmboy. Over.” Colonel Dekker stared at the pilot’s equipment arranged on a table set against the chamber wall. The speaker on the radio he had pulled from the man’s shirt pocket clicked and he heard Jommy’s voice repeat the call.… Continue reading Chapter 34

Chapter 35

DELIVERY Lt. Simmons tapped her headset again as she drove the carrier across the onslaught of ripples in the ground. “Say again.” She squinted at the ground rolling up in front of them as she strained to hear. A voice broke through the static, just audible over the background noise. “- One Alpha, One Charlie… Continue reading Chapter 35

Chapter 36

RECONCILIATION “Marine Six, Marine Six, Enforcer Six Actual, over.” As soon as he stopped talking, Dekker’s headset clicked and all he heard was static. “One Six, One Six, Two Six Actual, over.” Dekker rubbed his forehead and lightly stomped his boot on the ground as more static hissed through his headset. “Three Six, Three Six,… Continue reading Chapter 36

Chapter 37

CLAY The next morning, Dekker crouched down just outside the tower and stared into the sun as it crept above the horizon. His mind hadn’t stopped gyrating since he and Simmons had talked long into the night about everything that had happened, and what was coming next. It didn’t matter how he arranged it, but… Continue reading Chapter 37

Chapter 38

STI When they were far enough away that nobody could hear them, Dekker fished the STI grip from a bag hung on his belt and held it in his palm. Both Lt. Simmons and Sergeant Preston stared at the device. Preston seemed to stop breathing and reached out to touch it, as if it were… Continue reading Chapter 38

Chapter 39

EDGE OF SURVIVAL Jommy dug his feet into the ground, pushing his back against the cord tree as hard as he could. His back ached from the bark biting into his skin, but he would have pushed himself into the tree and wrapped it around himself if he could have. He had lost the radio… Continue reading Chapter 39

Chapter 40

COMMAND DECISION Dekker picked up another rock and threw it as far as he could, watching it tumble through the air, pushing its way through the sky with all the vigor he had been able to put behind it. It hit the ground and kicked up a satisfying clump of dirt before coming to rest.… Continue reading Chapter 40

Chapter 41

PALADIN’S BRIEFING Major Walker pulled back on both control handles to bring his Cat to a stop. His Cat swayed forward as the stabilizer servos surged to bring the Cat back to a stable stance. The Cat to his left took a few steps forward and did the same. The next Cat took a few… Continue reading Chapter 41

Chapter 42

LOYALTY’S PRIDE Captain Holt keyed the microphone on his transmitter. “Tiger One Tiger Papa One. Message. Enforcer Battalion in possession Strategic Target Interdiction assets, proceeding for fire on Second Brigade.” He let go of the button and watched the light flicker as the device encrypted the message. When it flashed green, he pressed the button… Continue reading Chapter 42

Chapter 43

TIME’S FIST Enforcer Battalion’s troop carriers scurried across the desert floor, hurling trails of billowing dust that stretched out into the darkness and settled back to the ground, shaken from an eternal slumber by something the land had long forgotten. The ground had seen and felt the tremble of it all before. The sky had… Continue reading Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Trap General Godfrey scanned the horizon with her field glasses. They were less than a day’s march away from the Pyramid and still there was no sign of the Paladin. The battalions left behind to defend against her First Brigade had been ably dispatched. She felt a twinge of disappointment at how easily the MEF… Continue reading Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Bait Lt. Simmons lay prone on the lee side of the ridge, peeking over its crest with her field glasses. “That is one squared away column,” she said. Lying next to her, Sergeant d’Vane said, “I heard a rumor once.” “Oh yeah, what about?” “They say General Kim has his troops do calisthenics every morning… Continue reading Chapter 45

Chapter 46

FINAL ORDERS Dekker stood behind Sergeant Preston, watching his coms tech brush his fingertips over the switches and buttons on the main panel in the communications control center. “Can you sort this out?” Dekker asked. “Yes sir,” Preston said. He touched one of the panels, his finger barely gracing its surface, as if he were… Continue reading Chapter 46

Chapter 47

FIRE PLAN Dekker paced through the center compound. The weapons company’s mortar crews were flinging dirt out of holes where they would position the heavy mortars while runners built leaning stacks of ammunition boxes behind each position. The compound was small and the mortars had to position themselves in two lines of four with barely… Continue reading Chapter 47

Chapter 48

ENEMY CONTACT Heat shimmered across the ground of the Shoahn’ desert, smearing the image of the lone troop carrier into a smudge of silver and black as it appeared on the horizon. A billow of dust whirled up behind it, mixing with the shimmer to form an apparition that raced to catch up to the… Continue reading Chapter 48

Chapter 49

UPLINK Dekker stepped into the communications building, closed the hatch and leaned against it as Sergeant Preston dialed out the screws on one of the com panels. Preston grabbed the curved handles on each side of the panel and yanked it free from the console. He turned the panel over and laid it on a… Continue reading Chapter 49

Chapter 50

LAST STAND As Captain Douglas watched the Terran line race through a wall of smoke and dust, the cracks and thumps of his latest mortar barrage finally reached him, lending a new reality to what they were, what they meant and what he needed them to do. Several seconds later, a new line of plumes… Continue reading Chapter 50

Chapter 51

THE ABANDONED “What’s our status, here, Sergeant?” Dekker asked. Preston sat hunched over a gray plastic box where he had mounted a circuit board. He tapped at a keyboard tethered to the box by a coil of black wire. “Encoding oscillators, sir.” “How long?” “About 10 minutes, sir.” Dekker arched a brow at Simmons. “Then… Continue reading Chapter 51

Chapter 52

ESCAPE Its turbine whining with the strain of full power, the carrier scurried down the back side of the next dune, hidden by the folds of sand hills stretching out from the communications complex. Once at the bottom, the transmission spooled up to grind the wheels into the sand and climb the next hill. The… Continue reading Chapter 52

Chapter 53

ARRIVAL Lt. Simmons eased the throttle forward and angled the control grip to maneuver the carrier up an incline of hard packed dirt and onto a flat shelf behind a ridge overlooking the Paladin’s position next to the Pyramid. Dekker dialed in the frequency for Major Walker and activated the sampling system to create the… Continue reading Chapter 53

Chapter 54

BROKEN PROMISES General Godfrey tried to shake away the pain still needling the back of her eyes. Had she given that order?  The veil of duty had become intertwined with a shroud of compulsion that seemed to be something apart from her. Duty had always been something a good soldier puts between themselves and the… Continue reading Chapter 54

Chapter 55

PALADIN’S CHARGE “Two Bravo Delta, Red Watch, flash. Enemy mounted three zero plus, tangos one five in trail, one kilometer phase line Red and moving fast. Over.” Major Walker leaned back in his pilot’s seat and reached up to brush his fingertips over the the Old Scrolls, now fastened to the bulkhead of his cockpit.… Continue reading Chapter 55

Chapter 56

THAT THEY SHALL NOT PERISH Lt. Simmons stood with her fists on her hips, trying to ignore the noise of the battle behind her as she watched her men struggle to raise the air control dish antenna on top of her carrier into position. “It’s banged up pretty bad, Lieutenant,” one of them said as… Continue reading Chapter 56

Chapter 57

FAITH Terran Guard troops were swarming in from both sides as Major Walker backed up. The few Cats left cranked their plasma guns around as far as they could and fired. The troops were too close now and they impacted the ground behind the troops, throwing up a blue wall of flame that did little… Continue reading Chapter 57

Chapter 58

FINAL SHOT Dekker looked away from the Paladin’s crippled Cat and watched the other three continue their retreat as the Second Brigade converged on the Pyramid. He couldn’t wait any longer. He stood up and yelled at the Marines standing guard next to the carriers, “Get over here!” As the rest scrambled to join Dekker,… Continue reading Chapter 58

Chapter 59

COVER FIRE Dekker waited for something – anything – to happen. “Did it fire?” He saw a flash from the corner of his eye and yanked up his field glasses to scan the area around the Pyramid. The three Cats were still walking back as the Terran Guard carriers lined up in front of the… Continue reading Chapter 59

Chapter 60

PROMISE Dekker opened his eyes to the sound of a purring coo drifting through the air around him. He blinked and saw a wall of gray as the sound became louder. He moved his head to look at Lt. Simmons and blinked again. The world arrived as a blur of light that fell into itself… Continue reading Chapter 60

Chapter 61

TOMMORROW Jommy was crouched behind Colonel Dekker when Shahn’Dra screeched and fell on her back. He ran to her and started pawing at her body as she stared at the sky, her antennae draped along the side of her head. She wasn’t moving. As panic welled up inside him, he placed his hand next to… Continue reading Chapter 61

Chapter 62

HOME General Godfrey felt the air heave out of her lungs as if somebody had just punched her in the gut. The world shimmered and seemed to stretch away from her. A haze fell over the world and then it snapped back into place. She squinted as the brightness of it burned into her eyes,… Continue reading Chapter 62